Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $1,999,998)
Allegheny County Department of Human Services (ACDHS), through this grant opportunity, seeks to adopt and sustain the Rapid Employment and Development Initiative (READI), tailored accordingly based on the Heartland Alliance (HA) model of violence reduction in Chicago. READI is an evidence-based program that recruits and connects people most highly impacted by violence with an intensive 12-month intervention combining cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), paid transitional employment, and other supportive services. Per ACDHS’s report on homicide and nonfatal shootings in Allegheny County, the population most at risk of perpetrating and/or falling victim to gun violence is overwhelmingly a small percentage of Black men residing in higher need communities, predominantly between the ages of 18–34. In addition, homicides are deeply concentrated geographically and demographically in Allegheny County, with homicides occurring on average in just 0.3 percent of census blocks, including blocks located within Stowe-Rox, Woodland Hills, and South Hilltop. These trends were used to inform the target population for READI with criteria to participate, including identifying as male, being at least 18 years old, having connections to the target communities, and being considered at risk of gun violence involvement. These highest risk individuals will be identified through READI outreach workers, law enforcement referral, and predictive risk modeling (risk assessment using courts and gun violence data to assign risk scores for the sole purpose of referral to the READI program). Due to the geographical fragmentation in Allegheny County, ACDHS has chosen to prioritize violence prevention efforts outside the City of Pittsburgh, the urban center of the county, because many investments are directed to communities within Pittsburgh through city administration, leaving municipalities outside city limits without meaningful engagement despite the growing challenge of violence in these communities. Through a competitive solicitation process, ACDHS identified three lead agencies, or “community quarterbacks,” to implement READI accordingly: READI Stowe-Rox will be led by Focus on Renewal (FOR), Woodland Hills will be led by Greater Valley Community Services (GCCS), and South Hilltop will be led by South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace (SPCP). ACDHS expects to serve 20 individuals in each of the three communities per year over the grant period. When comparing high-risk READI participants to high-risk non-READI participants, ACDHS anticipates a reduction in violent arrests and shooting victimization among participants and a reduction in homicide victimization and shootings at the community level.